Have you ever felt diminished by other people’s discomfort? Have you feared shining your own light?
We are all part of the whole and each of us is a vital piece. If we’re here, we’re needed and so are our unique gifts. This feminine principle speaks to our innate inheritance. It reminds us that when any part is diminished, so is the whole. When any person in the community is diminished, so is the whole. Whenever we diminish a part of ourselves, we diminish ourselves and our community.
Today’s story takes us to Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. Amaterasu lives with her brother in a village in Japan. She walks with her people, helping them plant and harvest the rice; celebrating their births; honoring the ancestors and generally living in harmony. Amaterasu is unaware of how she shines and of her importance in the community.
Her brother, however, is quite aware of her unique gifts and status in the community. Next to her, he feels insignificant – that he has no important place in the village. So, instead of working together with the people, he drinks and casts criticism upon Amaterasu.
Amaterasu loves her brother and puts up with his behavior. One day he goes too far. Amaterasu and the whole village spent the day planting the new rice paddies. They went to bed feeling proud and happy of the work they did. The next morning Amaterasu rose and went to bless the new rice paddies. What she saw upset her deeply. Her brother lay passed out next to the newly planted rice. He was covered in mud. He had destroyed the newly planted fields, throwing the tender rice plants at Amaterasu’s window.
Her heart broke in two; she was deeply sad for her brother and was devastated that the pain she seemed to cause him had now hurt the village. She decided in that moment to leave. She could not allow her presence was to harm them further. She hiked up into the mountains and found the cave her father used to take her to when she was a child. She rolled a boulder over the entrance of the cave and disappeared – never guessing that she was taking the life giving sunlight with her.
As you might guess, all things began to die without the sun.
I first heard this story at a time when I was afraid to step into my gifts and shine my light. I was afraid of being judged, of being misunderstood, of risking my relationships. I didn’t want to put myself above others or beyond them. You see, I had done that once before and those closest to me became very unhappy. So I learned to make myself small.
I totally understood Amaterasu’s choice. I’d gone into my own cave and rolled the boulder across the opening.
But the story goes on:
While Amaterasu is in her cave, the people of the village become weaker and weaker. Without the sun, there is no food. Without the sun, people get sick. Without the sun, their hearts were broken, for they loved Amaterasu and missed her loving presence. All of the village felt this loss, including her brother. He realized her significance and felt guilty that his actions had chased her away. He prayed and asked the ancestors for help in redeeming himself and saving the village.
That night he had a dream about his father taking him and his sister to a cave in the mountains. He woke with the certainty that she would be there. He rushed out to tell everyone that he knew where she was. The village felt hope for the first time since she’d left. They grew excited, all talking about who would go get her.
How will we convince her to return, they wondered. A small girl remembered that Amaterasu loved a party. They could take a party up to the cave. An elder of the village knew this would not be enough; Amaterasu needed to understand her importance in the village. The elder suggested they take up a large mirror.
They arrived outside of the cave, built a fire and started singing as loudly as they could. Amaterasu heard the noise and wondered who it could be. She rolled the boulder just a tiny bit from the mouth of the cave so she could hear better.
As soon as she did this, her light shone brightly through the tiny slit. The people became excited, singing more loudly and dancing. The elder directed them to place the mirror facing the mouth of the cave.
Amaterasu’s heart was warmed by the sound of the singing. She missed her village and longed to be part of things again. So she rolled the boulder farther away and peeked out. As she did so, she was blinded by the reflection of her light in the mirror. The light had always been with her, so she didn’t really notice its warmth or power. But now she was totally aware. The village helped her to see her unique gift.
As the people told her about their lives since she’d left them, she was astounded at the loss she had created by leaving. She vowed in that moment to never withhold her self or her gifts again. Brother promised to help her live up to that vow.
We all have a light. A retreat in a cave is sometimes just the thing we need for self care. It is remembering that we are a vital part of the whole that brings us out of our caves and into the arms of our community. If we’re wise, we take the time to acknowledge and encourage the light in others – and to be in gratitude for that light in our lives.
Solstice Blessings ~ Coleen
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